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Eating your vegetables isn’t a chore at four-month-old Hedge Row—in fact, it’s the main draw. A new endeavor from the team behind the Kitchen and Next Door eateries, this Cherry Creek spot uses a wood oven to transform seasonal, often local veggies into tempting plates. Sure, the porchetta sandwich and mole-braised short ribs are appealing, too, but the carrots—wood-roasted and piled atop creamy ricotta and a punchy dill gremolata—are a standout. Ditto the vegetarian entrée: a rainbow of roasted sweet potatoes, gingered tomatoes, cauliflower, and bok choy in a lime vinaigrette over White Mountain Farm’s Colorado-grown quinoa. The fresh food feels right at home in the bright space, which borrows design elements from the Kitchen (white subway tile, wood everywhere) to create a polished yet casual feel that’ll make you wish every day was Meatless Monday. 100 Steele St., 720-642-8292, hedgerowbistros.com
Filipino cuisine has been gaining traction nationally for a few years, and Denverites in the know go to Aurora’s Filipino-Thai joint ChowSun to get their fix. Housed in a nondescript strip mall, the four-year-old fast-casual eatery serves a full Thai menu, but we go for the bold, pork-centric Filipino fare, which marries Spanish and southeastern Asian influences. Our ideal meal starts with “lumpia” (crispy Filipino-style egg rolls) dipped into sweet chile sauce. Next, a savory-and-sour bowl of pork adobo or indulgent “lechon kawali” (fried cubes of juicy pork belly) served with a Filipino staple: fluffy steamed white rice. For dessert, order the halo halo sundae, a layered shaved-ice treat made with “ube” (purple yam) ice cream, sweetened condensed milk, red coconut jelly, jackfruit, and coconut slivers. 830 S. Buckley Road, Aurora, 720-410-2135
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The owners of two-month-old Emmerson on Boulder’s Pearl Street like to call it a “neo-bistro,” a nod to Parisian spots breaking from stiff, Michelin-star-driven traditions in favor of relaxed, chef-owned eateries with approachable food. At Emmerson, the concept manifests as a daytime cafe, a cocktail bar, and an upscale dinner venue. It’s a gorgeous space, with a marble-topped pastry case and bar and gold-flaked light bulbs that dangle above a long community table. Michelin-starred chef-partners Michael Gibney and Jeb Breakell offer delectable baked goods; sit-down breakfast and lunch fare; and dinnertime dishes such as sweet potato gnocchi with maitake mushrooms, uni, and blue cheese. Add to that drinks from renowned cocktail curator Nancy Kwon, and Colorado’s first neo-bistro is laid-back by day and the most ambitious new restaurant in Boulder at night. 1600 Pearl St., Suite 100, 303-953-9852, emmersonrestaurant.com